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ATLANTA (AP) – Jose Theodore made 28 saves to lift the Montreal Canadiens to a 2-1 victory Monday night over the high-scoring Atlanta Thrashers. Theodore has regained the form that made him the NHL MVP two seasons ago as his 2.23 goals-against average and .922 save percentage are better than his career averages. Atlanta survived a scare when Ilya Kovalchuk was helped off the ice with an injury late in the first period, but he returned shortly after. Kovalchuk ranks second in the league in goals and points.

Theodore denied two scoring chances by Kovalchuk, one by J.P. Vigier and one by Shawn McEachern in the final five minutes of the game.


Only Detroit has scored more goals than Atlanta this season, but the Thrashers have been streaky. Shut out in three straight losses earlier this month, the Thrashers rebounded to score 14 goals in three consecutive will before losing 5-2 at Ottawa on Sunday.


On what played out like a short-handed goal, Montreal took a 1-0 lead with 3:39 left in the first period as Kovalchuk was sprawled face down on the ice.


Andrei Markov scored his third goal of the season from the right circle. Patrice Brisebois and Saku Koivu were credited with the assists, but the Thrashers’ top concern was with their leading scorer.


Kovalchuk was hit in his left ankle by a puck shot by a teammate, and he needed help leaving the ice. He returned about three minutes into the second period and took a roughing penalty.


With only 13.6 seconds left in the first, Brisebois earned another assist as Montreal went ahead 2-0 on a goal by Pierre Dagenais. Dagenais scored his fifth goal following a stop by goaltender Byron Dafoe.


The Thrashers cut the deficit to 2-1 at 9:42 of the second period on a shot by Ronald Petrovicky in front of the crease.


Marc Savard earned a five-minute penalty for attempting-to-injure when he threw an elbow at Koivu with 6:49 left. Savard appeared to keep his elbow low, and the crowd of 17,310 booed the ruling.


Notes: The teams will play again on Saturday in Montreal. . . . The Canadiens placed C Benoit Gratton on the injured list because of a concussion sustained last Saturday at Carolina. . . . The Canadiens placed RW Donald Audette on waivers. He has only three goals and five assists in 23 games. . . . Dafoe fell to 16-7-3 against Montreal.


© The Canadian Press, 2003